Lifestyle

You're Worrying About Your Porn Habits Too Much

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Science figured out three distinctive rankings for porn consumption, ranging from "recreational" to "compulsive" to "highly distressed non-compulsive." Finally, some clarity.

According to a recent study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine on the connection between Internet porn and sexual outcomes, most respondents (75.5 percent of 830 adults surveyed, a majority of whom were women) fell into the "recreational" category, with no negative sexual side effects and the highest reported sexual satisfaction. For this majority—who on average consumed 24 minutes of porn per week—it was a perfectly healthy activity.

The "highly distressed non-compulsive" group (12.7 percent of respondents) reported the shortest amount of time spent watching—17 minutes—but the most emotional distress from said watching. The "compulsive" respondents (11.8 percent) watched a whole lot more porn—110 minutes per week—but were only moderately distressed, though still more distressed than the researchers felt was healthy.

So, according to this study at least, the segment of adults who should be truly concerned about negative porn effects is rather small—and they're either consuming the most or the least amount of porn, so it's hard to nail down advisable porn-watching metrics. While overuse of porn can indeed negatively impact lives, you can't easily throw around a "porn addict" label. Yet "porn addiction" is still floated as a pop culture diagnosis, and even an entire state took it upon itself to label porn as a public health hazard.

The segment of adults who should be truly concerned about negative porn effects is rather small.

All the ghoulish excitement—political, tabloid, and otherwise—over porn addiction is mostly without merit. A new study from the Journal of Urology found a correlation between porn and sexual dysfunction among a very small segment (3.4 percent) of surveyed military servicemen. Those men reported worse erectile function, orgasmic function, sexual desire, satisfaction from intercourse, and satisfaction in general. But they also preferred masturbating to porn over sex as a path to sexual satisfaction—as opposed to the 96.6 percent who liked sex more. That caveat might make all the difference.

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Another earlier study found people who think their porn habits are out of control are more likely to have a religiously or morally dicey relationship with sex. And according to a third study, people who were more likely to report porn addiction were also more likely to report psychological distress, regardless of the hours spent online. That indicates the fear of uncontrollable porn addiction was stronger than the porn itself. Nor does the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists believe treatment for sex or porn addiction to be a worthwhile use of resources, at least not until further research is done.

It's likely that porn watchers who worry about addiction are their own harshest critics, even in the face of scientific study. That, or Pamela Anderson's anti-porn crusade got into everyone's heads.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.

* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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